I believe in the power of goodness
I believe in the power of goodness. This past month, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the country, to Dallas, NYC, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Elsah, Illinois, Newtown, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Miami Beach. It’s not easy being on the road. In fact, it’s gut-wrenching to leave my two little children. I weaned my son earlier than both of us would have liked, and on this last trip, I missed his first steps, first birthday, and Mother’s Day.I’ve had to ask myself a lot lately: Why am I doing this? What is the point? What is this all for? The why question is huge. Anyone who has watched Simon Sinek’s viral TED talk on Start with why knows the power of a good why. I’ve never really been able to articulate it. I know what I want to be doing in the world, and I have loved seeing the results, but the why has eluded me.It’s requiring that I dig deeper and listen to my heart—the heart that loves my children more than anything, yet also what motivates me to tear myself away from that little child’s embrace to get on a plane and talk to people in faraway places. I care so much about my children. But I also care about the world they will grow up in. Will I have done my part to make it a better world, with more peace, and justice, and goodness? I want that answer to be yes.At the end of the day, when I really listen to my heart, my why—what motivates me, what keeps me going, what fires me up, it is the incredible power of goodness. It just blows me away to see what people are capable of, the higher purpose and calling we each have if we tap into it, the self-sacrifice and love that is all around us.Let me share with you some examples from the past few weeks:
- Amsal Madhani, a Muslim teenager from Dallas, Texas delivered a spoken word performance at the Thanks Giving Foundation National Day of Prayer luncheon on May 5th. She described from her heart what her faith meant to her, how it inspired her love and kindness towards others, how difficult it was to be told by her peers she was “going to hell” for being Muslim, how much she yearned to make a difference in the world. She moved the audience to tears and when she finished, we all spontaneously leapt to our feet. She had touched us with her passion and her huge heart—she ceased being a “Muslim”, but was a young person full of love and hope and possibility.
- In Newtown, Pennsylvania, I was invited by a friend of a friend who had seen the United Religions Initiative's CBS interfaith special to give a talk to her community. This dear Jewish lady, Natalie Kaye, belongs to a local interfaith group and believes with all her heart in world peace. She gathered together the most extraordinary group of activists, musicians, interfaith leaders for a luncheon in which we all shared our stories and dreams. The talk that evening was to a very diverse crowd with tough questions, including asking me about CIA’s torture tactics (which I didn’t answer) and the dark theology of Islam. (See short news video covering the talk.)
- In Miami, I was honored to have some cherished one-on-one time with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. What an honor to meet this man and to hear his wisdom!!! His presence was so peaceful; he was so humble. I felt instantly at ease and just wanted to drink in whatever he said. He shared how his grandfather believed non-violence was not a power tactic, but a complete way of life, from the way we parent (punishment of any kind is violence) to poverty as the cruelest form of violence. He shared his pessimism about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—with violence and a lack of leadership on both sides. He told me he had counseled the former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat to organize a massive non-violent march from Jordan into Palestine, which would gain worldwide sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Arafat apparently agreed that would be a good idea, but died shortly thereafter.
- I’ve met with several Euphrates Chapters during my travels, and I just can’t tell you how amazing it is to see “everyday” people stepping up and making a difference in their communities and the world. From St. Louis to Dallas to right here in my hometown of Redding, these are individuals with no background or expertise in the Middle East, with no impetus to organize these activities and do this peacebuilding work, except they want to do what is good and right. And they want to make a difference. The Chapter leader in Dallas decided to start the group in her community after she encountered some disturbing prejudice against Muslims in her church. The Redding chapter just put on an event featuring four Muslim high school exchange students sharing their stories and hopes. (Watch a quick video and read this article in the local paper about the event.) They were from Yemen, Palestine, Tunisia, and the Philippines. One could not come away from that event uninspired by these young people—the challenges that they have already overcome in life, their courage and conviction in wanting to make the world a better place. The Yemeni student at one point was so choked up sharing how much he wants to help people that he had to leave the room, and then he shared a song he had composed about his family whom he has not seen for years and who are struggling in the midst of the war in Yemen.
What stands out to me in these examples (and there were many more—too many to share!!) is again the immense power of goodness. The goodness that helps us get through life’s challenges, to help and heal others, to labor for a higher purpose, for humanity, for the deeper meaning of life. It is why we are all here, I truly believe that. Each of us has something powerful and good and wonderful to contribute to this world.When I was sitting along the Euphrates river in Iraq many years ago after being near the war zone of Fallujah, I was struck by the contrast between the calm and peace of the river in the midst of the chaos and death of war. The thought that came to me was, “Which will you choose?” I said to myself, “I choose the river.” Why? Because it symbolized peace, not war, life, not death—and because it was more powerful. No matter how many bombs went off, it could not affect the trajectory and flow of the river.I think we are presented each moment with this choice to see the goodness in others, in situations, in our life circumstances. Which will you choose?